As Israel swiftly transitioned to a war footing, young army reservists across the nation were quick to respond. The surprise attack by Hamas on Saturday had shocked the nation, and many reservists were eager to serve. Michael Goldberg, a 24-year-old reservist in Jerusalem, expressed his anticipation, saying, “From 6.30am, we were itching to know why we weren’t being called up already.” He had recently returned from the United States and, upon witnessing the attack, knew that he would not be going back.
Israel has since called up a record 360,000 reservists to aid in the response to the attack. Israel relies heavily on its reserve contingent, comprising civilians who have completed their mandatory national service and can be mobilized again for duty up to the age of 40.
Many reservists have been eager to return to duty, and some faced challenges due to the surge in mobilizations. The El Al airline even announced additional flights to bring those abroad back to Israel.
This surge in reservist mobilization has transformed the national landscape, with individuals from various backgrounds answering the call. Alan Sacks, a Jerusalem lawyer and father of six, shared the experiences of his sons who were either mobilized or still seeking a place to serve.
The civilian military plays a fundamental role in Israel’s existence, and the call has gone out to reservists from their early twenties to those aged 40, which is the cutoff age for exemption from duty.
Shay, a 40-year-old taxi driver, was on holiday in Greece when he received the call but was willing to serve despite having been exempt for 20 years. Elkana Bar Etan, a 38-year-old reservist, took the initiative to text his commander and was immediately deployed to the border with Lebanon.
Even those who were double exempt from duty, like Nissim Baranes, have shown up to serve. Mr. Baranes, over 40 with six children, found himself waiting at a bus station in uniform, eager to contribute to his country during these challenging days.
For some parents, watching their sons and daughters go off to serve in this conflict is a painful déjà vu. Judith, the wife of Alan Sacks, recalled their experiences during the 2014 Gaza war and how they dreaded the appearance of uniformed soldiers at their doorstep. Now, with more of their children serving, they face similar fears and emotions.
The duration of this mobilization remains uncertain, but with the ongoing situation and the potential for a ground invasion, many reservists are prepared for a long and challenging commitment. Michael Goldberg summed up the prevailing sentiment: “There is a lot of mixed emotion, a lot of adrenaline, and a lot of unknowns.”